International Fight Week concludes with UFC 290

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UFC 290 octagon at T-Mobile Arena. Photo by Wyatt Touchet.

   Heading into the last event of International Fight Week, many great moments and occasions were celebrated before UFC 290.

   Fans received an experience of a lifetime by interacting with their favorite past and present fighters at UFC X which was hosted at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The fan experience continued through the UFC Hall of Fame ceremony, which cemented the legacies of fighters who were staples to the growth of the organization. Jens Pulver, Anderson Silva, Jose Aldo, Donald Cerrone, and Robbie Lawler’s legendary fight against Rory McDonald, Lawler vs McDonald 2, were those inducted Thursday evening.

   UFC 290 did not disappoint, selling out the T-Mobile Arena with over 19,000 in attendance to cap off International Fight Week.

   Esteban Ribovics defeats Kamuela Kirk by unanimous decision [29-28]

   Ribovics displayed his powerful striking as it went the distance for the opener of UFC 290.

   Now 12-1, the Argentinian provided consistency and resiliency against Kirk, who recorded three takedowns and fell to 11-6. This back-and-forth lightweight bout set the tone for the largest UFC event of the year in International Fight Week.

   Jesus Aguilar defeats Shannon Ross by KO at 0:17 of Round 1

   BOOM! 

   Just like that, Aguilar hits Ross with a filthy overhand right. The one-punch knockout fueled a roar from a crowd filled with Mexican representation. Aguilar was the first of five Mexican fighters scheduled for UFC 290.

   “It’s so incredible, this is the best moment of my life,” Aguilar said. “I needed to win here.”

   Bouncing back from a submission loss to Tatsuro Taira, who appears later in the card, Aguilar’s impressive outing eliminates any doubt moving forward at 9-2.

   Cameron Saaiman defeats Terence Ross by TKO [strikes] at 3:10 of Round 1

   Saaiman, known for his striking, displayed immense versatility through his grappling performance, earning him the win in this bantamweight bout.

   Thus far, all international fighters have proven victorious in International Fight Week. The South African maintains his undefeated record and climbs to 9-0.

   Vitor Petrino defeats Marcin Prachnio by submission [head & arm choke] at 3:42 of Round 3

   Petrino showed outstanding control and patience, as his performance was nothing short of dominant. 

   The Brazilian light heavyweight caps off the early prelims for UFC 290 with a presentation of an all-around display of strikes and grappling, earning him his third UFC win to remain undefeated at 9-0. 

   Alonzo Menifield defeats Jimmy Crute by submission [guillotine choke] at 1:55 of Round 2

   After their last meeting ended in a draw, Menifield carried over his frustration into this rematch and made his statement for both his career and their first meeting in Feb.

   Menifield elevates his chances of cracking the Top 15 at 14-3-1. The Dallas fighter looks to carry this momentum into his next fight against a potentially ranked opponent.

   Denise Gomes defeats Yazmin Jauregui by TKO [strikes] at 0:20 of Round 1

   Coming out swinging for the fences, Gomes stuns Jauregui with a vicious right hook that drops the Mexican fighter and proceeds to pummel her until the stoppage.

   The women’s strawweight bout caught all viewers by surprise with gasps of astonishment from all in attendance, especially Jauregui’s fans and fans of Mexican fighters. “A lot of people underestimated me, a lot of people diminished me and tried to put me down,” Gomes said. 

“[My coaches and I] we knew that we’re going to win.”

   Earning Performance of the Night, Gomes, who now sits at 8-2, is making a name for herself in a highly competitive and talented women’s strawweight division that is difficult to climb with fighters like No. 14 Tabatha Ricci, No. 10 Tatiana Suarez, and UFC strawweight champion Zhang Weili.

   Tatsuro Taira defeats Edgar Chairez by unanimous decision [29-27]

   Taira entered the catchweight bout undefeated and exited the octagon perfect at 14-0.

   Only the second fight to go the distance, Taira escaped several takedowns and submission attempts through all three rounds. Despite presenting several advantageous moments to finish the fight, Chairez was edged out, especially in the second, as all judges scored that round 10-8.

   Taira demonstrated his potential and exhibited how his talent and skills could terrorize the 135-pound division.

   Robbie Lawler defeats Niko Price by KO at 0:38 of Round 1

   Happily ever after!

   The legendary future Hall of Famer “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler produces a historic final bout with an uppercut that was felt from every viewer’s seat.

   Lawler, the former UFC welterweight champion, delivers a performance beyond all expectations and caps off a career that encapsulates all the UFC wants in a fighter. The California native is highlighted in numerous iconic UFC moments that are cemented into the history and growth of the organization. 

   On Thursday, the UFC cemented one of those moments into the UFC Hall of Fame, Lawler vs McDonald 2. 

   “It was nice to end my career like this. The fans have been great this week, the media has been  great,” Lawler said. “Thank you for the years of support…I’m grateful.”

   “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler exits the octagon for the last time with an incredible record of 30-16.

   Bo Nickal defeats Val Woodburn by TKO [strikes] at 0:38 of Round 1

   A fight with many question marks is finally answered.

   A week prior to this main card opener, most fans did not know the name Val Woodburn. With loads of pressure amounting onto Nickal’s shoulders, the Penn State phenom delivered and defused all concerns with his powerful fists.

   Nickal is an incredible wrestler, winning three NCAA Division I national titles at Penn State, but he reminds fans and the middleweight division that he can damage opponents by striking and wrestling.

   After opening his second straight pay-per-view main card, Nickal remains undefeated at 5-0.

   Dan Hooker defeats Jalin Turner by split decision [28-29,29-28, 28-29]

   Hooker wins an all-out war of attrition in this lightweight clash.

   No. 11 Jalin Turner and No. 12 Dan Hooker exchanged numerous blows that had all of T-Mobile Arena on their feet through all three rounds. Hooker, like UFC lightweight Elves Brener a week ago, walked into the fight with platinum blonde hair and left with ruby red hair from the bloodbath that took place inside the octagon. 

   “I wanted my hair pink from the fight, and I got it,” Hooker said.

   In addition to the blood-ridden and swollen face, Hooker broke his wrist in the second round. Hooker had just recovered from a broken hand, and in that recovery process, trained with one hand for a portion of his camp.

   “Just a scratch,” Hooker said. “They say tough times don’t last, Dan Hooker does.”

   Hooker gets the nod from the majority of judges as he improves 23-12.

   Dricus Du Plessis defeats Robert Whittaker by TKO [strikes] at 2:23 of Round 2

   Similar to Nickal vs. Woodburn, this middleweight clash of the titans as both men are atop the division.

   “This is truly the biggest honor of my whole fighting career,” Du Plessis said. “Being able to share the cage with a legend. A guy that I had a poster of in my room wishing to be like someday.”

   Du Plessis made his presence known in this fight and the division by delivering an outing that staggered Whittaker several times. The South African has played the villain role all week long and certainly did not disappoint by taking down a hero to Aussies.

   This win now gives Du Plessis his title shot against the UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and earned him Performance of the Night. Bad blood continues to boil between them regarding their origins and the true native of Africa as Adesanya steps into the octagon post-fight to confront and face off with Du Plessis. 

   “I’m African, but I ain’t no brother of yours [to Adesanya],” Du Plessis said. 

   “It’s an easy fight, easy fight, easy money. I manifested this, I said I was gonna have this moment and I know I’m gonna have this moment,” Adesanya said.

   All talk and suspense will be relieved in Sydney, Australia, for UFC 293 in September for the undisputed UFC middleweight belt.

Du Plessis is now 20-2 heading into his title shot.

   Alexandre Pantoja defeats Brandon Moreno by split decision [49-46, 48-49, 47-48]

   AND NEW!

   This co-main event earned fight of the night for an all-time card in UFC 290.

   With a crimson mask of blood, Pantoja was pushed to his limits and earned the UFC flyweight belt as a villain in a Mexican-dominated crowd who chanted continuously, “Moreno, Moreno, Moreno!” 

   “If you know my story you’re gonna love me,” Pantoja said. “I worked so hard for that [belt]…I left everything I have [for the belt].”

   Moreno, the former UFC flyweight champion, broke his hand in the first of five rounds of the championship bout. The adversity was unnoticeable until made public following the loss for the pride of Tijuana.

   This championship fight caps a trilogy that dates back to their ultimate fighter series bout back in 2016. In all three fights, Pantoja has swept the matchup 3-0.

   With the belt, Pantoja looks to have his first title defense at a 26-5 record.

   Alexander Volkanovski defeats Yair Rodriguez by TKO [strikes] 4:19 of Round 3

   AND STILL!

   “The Great” Volkanovski produces another title defense in the featherweight division. Volkanovski bounces back from a controversial loss to Islam Makhachev in the 155-pound division, yet Volk displayed his dominance at UFC 290 in his worth pound-for-pound in the world.

   Volkanovski provided a close-to-perfect performance that made a case to be the greatest featherweight of all time. Next up for the champion is still determining whether he has another title defense or hopes to be on the short list of simultaneous double belt champions.

   Up Next

   UFC Fight Night at the Apex headlines Holm vs Silva on Saturday, July 15. UFC 291 is the next pay-per-view on schedule in Salt Lake City, Utah, which headlines the fight for the BMF belt, Poirier vs Gaethje 2.

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